To say that Yu Darvish has performed well recently may be a bit of an understatement. In his last five starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA. In that time, he is averaging four hits per game while walking 11 against 42 strikeouts. Manager Ron Washington credits the turnaround to Darvish dropping some baggage. I'm not quite sure what that's in reference to, but I'm glad to see it happen. This Darvish is the one that Rangers fans had hoped for when Texas shelled out over $120 million for him in the offseason.
Hopefully, this trend continues tonight as the Texas Rangers host the Seattle Mariners with Yu on the mound. Darvish has had zero success against the Mariners this season. In fact, in three games, he has an 8.29 ERA with 14 walks and 14 strikeouts. But things have changed. More noticeably, two things have changed. First, there is no more Ichiro in Seattle. Some people felt that Ichiro intimidated Darvish. After all, Darvish grew up watching him play in Japan and was now facing his idol in America. Ichiro literally owned him, going 6-for-11, which translates to a .545 average.
The other change that has occurred is at catcher. Mike Napoli started the season as Darvish's catcher and that job was soon given to Yorvit Torrealba. Torrealba was released and the Rangers traded for Geovany Soto. Napoli caught Darvish again until he went on the disabled list. That left Soto as the one in charge of Darvish, and he seems to have made quite an impact. Soto is one of the more vocal and demonstrative catchers I have ever seen. He is also excellent at framing pitches, which is what Darvish needs as he likes to nibble at the corners of the plate.
If anything, I believe tonight will be more about the turnaround that Darvish has had and less about the missing intimidation factor. Who knows? Maybe Ichiro really does get into his head. Or maybe it's just a coincidence. While I expect Texas to win this series and for Darvish to win tonight, you simply cannot forget that the Mariners are playing the role of the spoiler from here on out. While they technically have not been eliminated from playoff contention, it's a foregone conclusion that their season is over.
Texas, on the other hand, needs to pounce on the Mariners as it has six games remaining with them this season. The other 19 are against the A's and Angels. It's the stretch run, folks. Fasten your seatbelts. We're in for a ride.
Until next time, I'll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, the founder of clawandantlernation.com and a member of SABR. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.
- Sports & Recreation
- Yu Darvish
- Seattle Mariners
- Geovany Soto
- Texas Rangers